Ypres, a town situated in the western parts of Belgium, holds immense significance in the history of World War I. The town suffered severe damages during the war but has been reconstructed since then to serve as a commemoration for the fallen soldiers and a symbol of peace. Whether you possess an interest in history or just wish to pay tribute, Ypres is a destination that must not be missed when travelling to Flanders Fields.
History of Ypres
Ypres’s rich history dates back to World War I, where it played a pivotal role and witnessed some of the most ferocious battles of the conflict. The town was razed to the ground during the war and was painstakingly rebuilt to its original glory once the conflict ended. Currently, visitors can immerse themselves in the town’s history by visiting significant sites like the In Flanders Fields Museum, which recounts the war’s story and its impact on the town and its inhabitants. Moreover, the Menin Gate Memorial and the Ypres Salient Battlefields serve as crucial historical landmarks that offer a glimpse into the town’s past.
The city of Ypres can be easily explored on foot. The Ypres City walk is a 6.6km long walk that brings you along most of the highlights in this charming town. The brochure with route map is available at the local tourist office for the small prize of 3€.
Best Things to do and see in Ypres
- Menin Gate Memorial: The Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres is a must-visit for those visiting the town. The memorial is dedicated to soldiers who lost their lives in the Ypres Salient battles and whose graves remain unknown. The Last Post ceremony is a poignant tribute to these fallen soldiers and takes place every evening at 8 pm.
- In Flanders Fields Museum: The modern In Flanders Fields Museum provides a comprehensive account of World War I from various viewpoints, including those of soldiers, civilians, and medical personnel. Interactive displays and multimedia exhibits create a vivid picture of the war and its far-reaching impact.
- Ypres Cloth Hall: The Ypres Cloth Hall, also called the ‘Lakenhalle’, is a splendid building situated in the heart of Ypres, dating back to the 13th century. Although severely damaged during the war, the hall has since been restored and now serves as a museum chronicling the town’s history.
- St. George’s Memorial: St. George’s Memorial Church is a serene and beautiful place of worship that pays tribute to the fallen soldiers of the British Empire. The church boasts of stained-glass windows and a peaceful garden, providing an ideal atmosphere for contemplation.
- Ramparts Cemetery: The Ramparts Cemetery, located on the outskirts of Ypres, is the final resting place of many soldiers who lost their lives during the war. The cemetery is impeccably maintained and serves as a testament to the ultimate sacrifices made by these soldiers.
- Market Square: The Market Square in Ypres is a lively and picturesque area, surrounded by historic buildings and cafes. It is the hub of the town’s social life and an excellent spot for people-watching or sipping a cup of coffee.
- Talbot House: Talbot House, also known as Toc H, is a museum and cultural center established during World War I as a haven of rest for soldiers. The house has now become a museum that showcases its history and role during the war.
- Bellewaerde Park: Bellewaerde Park is a family-friendly theme park situated a short drive from Ypres, offering a variety of attractions, including roller coasters, water rides, and animal shows. The Bellewaerde Aquapark is a perfect place to beat the summer heat and have fun.
Things to see and do nearby
- Tyne Cot Cemetery: Tyne Cot Cemetery is the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in the world and is a testament to the sacrifices made by the soldiers during World War I. The cemetery is the final resting place for more than 11,000 soldiers, most of whom died during the Battle of Passchendaele.
- Passchendaele Museum: Located in Zonnebeke, the Passchendaele Museum offers an immersive experience that brings the events of the Battle of Passchendaele to life. The museum features interactive exhibitions, dioramas, and audio-visual displays that provide a comprehensive overview of the battle.
- Trenches of Death: Located in Diksmuide, the Trenches of Death are a preserved section of the battlefield that provides a glimpse into the daily life of soldiers during World War I. The site features a trench system and underground bunkers, offering a hands-on experience for visitors.
Location of Ypres
Ypres is a town in the province of West Flanders in Belgium. It is located in the heart of Flanders Fields, a region that encompasses several towns and villages and serves as a memorial to the soldiers who lost their lives during World War I.
Travel to Ypres
- From the UK: Visitors from the UK can choose between the channel tunnel or a ferry crossing to France. Once you arrive in France, it’s only a one hour drive to Ypres.
- By plane: The nearest major airport to Ypres are Lille Airport (France) and Brussels-Zaventem Airport. From Brussels-Zaventem airport, you can take a train or bus to Ypres.
- By car: Ypres is located just off the A19 motorway, which connects to major Belgian cities like Brussels and Antwerp.
Where to stay in Ypres
Ypres offers a range of accommodation options to suit every budget and travel style. From luxury hotels to budget-friendly hostels, there’s something for everyone.
Campsites in Ypres
Travelers on a camping trip can pitch their tent or park their rv at one of the following campsites
- Campsite Jeugdstation: This campsite couldn’t be closer to the city.
- Campsite ‘t Hof Bellewaerde: This campsite is located a couple km’s outside the city, right next to the Bellewaerde Theme Park.
Where to next?
- Ostend is 50km away
- Bruges is 70km away
- Ghent is 80km away
Ypres is a beautiful and historic town that serves as a memorial to the soldiers who lost their lives during World War I. Whether you’re a history buff or simply looking to pay your respects, Ypres is a must-visit destination in Flanders Fields. With its rich history, charming market square, and numerous cultural and historical sites, Ypres is a destination that will leave you with lasting memories.